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Not Ready to Give Up All Animal-Based Protein? Try Pescatarianism

Hands holding utensils around a table filled with fish, fruit, vegetables, and bread.
Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

Want to eat more vegetables this year, but not quite ready to give up all animal-based proteins? Why not try pescatarianism, so you can still eat fish and seafood?

If you don’t feel confident about making a drastic change to your diet (like giving up all meat, for example), pescatarianism might be a good start. It allows you to continue to enjoy seafood and fish and reap the many benefits they provide.

What Is a Pescatarian and What Do They Eat?

A pescatarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat or poultry but continues to eat fish and seafood, in addition to a mainly plant-based diet.

This diet is also sometimes called “pesco-vegetarianism,” due to the fact that it’s primarily a vegetarian diet.

Some pescatarians also eat dairy, while others do not. According to registered dietician and nutritionist, Marisa Moore, a pescatarian who also eats dairy products and eggs is called a lacto-ovo-pescatarian.

The following are some of the main foods a pescatarian eats:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy products
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

While animal products like dairy are okay for most, with the exception of fish and seafood, pescatarians don’t eat the following:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Veal
  • Wild Game Meat
  • Stock or broth (unless it’s vegetable)

Why People Choose Pescatarianism

Everyone has their reasons for changing their diet. However, the following are the most common reasons people choose pescatarianism:

  • Health: There are proven health benefits to eating a plant-based diet when compared to a nonvegetarian one. One study found vegetarians have a lower risk than nonvegetarians of dying of heart disease. Studies have also found eating less animal meat or switching to a pescatarian diet caused weight loss.
  • Ethical reasons: Some people find animal slaughter for consumption too challenging to bear or contribute to, so they change their eating habits. Documentaries and books that describe or show the conditions animals face in factory settings cause many people to abandon eating mass-farmed chicken, beef, and other traditional meats.

Isn’t Eating Fish and Seafood Daily Expensive?

Fish on ice at a fish market.
Nadiia Gerbish/Shutterstock

Many of us are on a budget, and switching to a fish and seafood diet might sound particularly costly.

The good part is, as a pescatarian, you mainly eat plant-based foods with the addition of some fish and seafood. For example, the American Heart Association recommends you eat fish twice a week.

However, there are no set rules as to how much (or how little) fish or seafood you can or should eat. Following the AHA’s recommendation might be an excellent way to get started, though.

If you do, your two servings should weigh about 3.5 ounces each, and they should be a fatty fish, like trout, tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, or albacore tuna.

5 Ways to Get Started

Making a drastic or sudden change to your eating habits can cause you to fail or give up too soon. If you’ve decided to start eating a more vegetarian diet along with fish and seafood, we’ve got a few ways to help you get started.

Read Up on Pescatarianism

You should have a good reason for becoming a pescatarian. Like any other lifestyle change, people who don’t take it too seriously are less likely to stick with it.

If you already have your reasons and are truly committed, the rest should come easily. However, if you need a bit more convincing, watch a documentary or do some reading. Both will give you a lot to ponder and some goals to work toward.

Also, you don’t have to limit your research to pescatarianism. Any books or videos that help you reframe your relationship with food and dietary choices, like Michael Pollan’s acclaimed book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, can help.

Three Meat-Free Days per Week

We all know about Meatless Monday, but becoming a pescatarian means no meat (except fish and seafood) seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. That’s a significant change to make right away.

Rather than making such a big adjustment week one, you might want to start things off with three meat-free days per week. Pick your three days and stick with them—you can gradually add one more each week.

Eliminate Most (But Not All) Meats at First

Another way you can start things off slow is by eliminating most meats with the exception of one or two. For example, you could eliminate beef, pork, and turkey, but continue to have one meal per week with chicken.

This allows you to try out some new vegetarian or pescatarian recipes during the week but still have one with the meat of your choice. After a few weeks to decide which meals you like most, you can then eliminate that final meat.

This is a great way to dip in your toes rather than jumping into the deep end.

Find Substitutes

“Eliminate” can be a scary word—especially when an entirely new way of eating lies ahead of you. Rather than thinking about removing foods from your diet, try to find alternatives or substitutes.

Love beef Wellington? There are many recipes out there for vegetable Wellington. Is Taco Tuesday your favorite day of the week? Try subbing smashed black beans, sautéed mushrooms, and bell peppers for meat, or grill up some shrimp or haddock to throw in your taco.

The Internet Is Your Friend

Right now, you’re reading an article about how to become a pescatarian, so you already know there are many resources available. If you don’t already have one, sign up for a Pinterest account and look up some recipes. There are millions out there, and you can save (or pin) as many as you’d like to try whenever you’re ready.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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